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Does anyone have any information how companies deal with personal projects at work? I have noticed an increase in companies offering a small percentage of time toward personal projects at work (usually 10-15%).

I am thinking about asking for the same where I work, but want to go in with some good information on the benefits and how others deal with it currently.

How can i craft an effective sales pitch to my manager for the adoption of this policy?

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Jeff wrote about this on his blog and linked to a book. Not much actual data on the benefits, though. –  MarkJ Oct 11 '12 at 12:06
    
The work has to be related to the company business, for example new ideas for future products or services, study to increase/gain knowledge, things like that. Don't expect to get time for, for example, making add-ons for your favorite game, unless maybe your employer is in the business of selling such add-ons. –  jwenting Oct 11 '12 at 12:09
    
benefits as seen by companies I've had contact with that do it are new ideas, innovation coming from the trenches rather than slowly pushed through by cumbersome groupmeets of marketeers, architects, and business analysts. –  jwenting Oct 11 '12 at 14:25
    
Can you modify your question to be less a poll and more a question? Perhaps "How do I bring up benefits to personal-project time at work" vs "what do you guys do for personal project time at work" ? –  enderland Oct 11 '12 at 14:48
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There is a similar question already on this site that may be of interest: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/468/… –  JB King Oct 11 '12 at 15:12
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migrated from programmers.stackexchange.com Oct 11 '12 at 14:02

This question came from our site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development.

2 Answers

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First, you'll have to see what kind of agreements do you have with your employer as there is a good chance that the company would state they own the work for the personal project and it is their intellectual property. This can be important for some people as if someone finds that million dollar idea, they may want some additional compensation for that. Alternatively, some may want control over personal projects once they get past an initial prototype phase.

From Seven Ways to Boost Employee Morale:

Personal projects can provide an energizing break from regular responsibilities and can serve as a source of innovation for a company. Atlassian, a developer of collaboration software based in Sydney, encourages creativity during its "FedEx Day." During this event, all 62 employees can work on anything that excites them -- as long as it is somewhat related to Atlassian products or processes, can be completed in the allotted time, and is fun. Employees have from 2 p.m. on a Thursday until 4 p.m. Friday, giving them roughly 24 hours to deliver a project (thus the name, FedEx Day). Then at a presentation, participants show off the results of their projects. From these ideas, Atlassian has adopted more than a dozen projects, ranging from product upgrades to process improvements.

Another source would be How 3M Gave Everyone Days Off and Created an Innovation Dynamo to demonstrate that this isn't that new of an idea at least for one company:

3M launched the 15 percent program in 1948. If it seems radical now, think of how it played as post-war America was suiting up and going to the office, with rigid hierarchies and increasingly defined work and home roles. But it was also a logical next step. All those early years in the red taught 3M a key lesson: Innovate or die, an ethos the company has carried dutifully into the 21st century.

Next, consider what kind of structure would be desired for your company? Is trying to get a deliverable product in 24 hours reasonable? Would it be better to let the people have a few months to get the project into a state to show to other employees? Would it be best for each person to be their own independent army in getting something done or could people work on personal projects together? There are several details to work out though my suggestion would be when you pitch this is to have several questions so that management can make some choices and feel like they have some ownership in this program rather than just rubber-stamping the idea.

In previous positions I could carve out some time for personal things that I could then pitch as ways to change process or add something new to how the company functioned. My current work as a Research Assistant does give me some latitude to find new project ideas and bounce them off of others.

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There are two components: Your company has to want new ideas and believe their employees will come up with them.

I know this sounds a little crazy, but too many companies and managers would rather employees focus on "doing" their jobs. Management has the right plan and it would work if people just followed it. You were hired to do "X job" and not sit around and daydream.

Depending on how your current supervisors feel about this, you may have to give them a little taste of your ideas. They should ask you what you would do with this time. It doesn't have to be specific. Maybe there are new technologies to learn? I think if you can mention a particular problem the company faces, you may get more buy in. The drawback to this is you're expected to work on that during this time and you lose some freedom. It's better than nothing.

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